The family of a killer who stabbed his partner to death on Mother’s Day left her body for her brother and stepfather to find, a court heard.
Mum-of-two Melissa Liddle, 23, was found dead in bed at the home she shared in Oak Avenue, South Shields, with Anthony Ross after her family grew concerned about her absence on the special day, March 15, last year.
Ross, 24, was yesterday ordered to be detained indefinitely in a secure hospital, having previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibilty.
Melissa had been stabbed 41 times by Ross, who had become convinced she was having an affair.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Melissa’s body had already been discovered earlier in the day by Ross’s father and uncle, who arranged for the killer to have an appointment with a solicitor, but did not contact the emergency services about what they found.
Melissa’s body was found by her younger brother Liam Bush, 21, and stepdad David Keighley – while her mother, Tracey Keighley, listened to the events unfold on her mobile phone.
The court heard Liam, 21, never got over what he saw and was found dead last November – leaving a note saying he wanted to be with his sister and could no longer cope with what happened.
Judge Paul Sloan QC said this was “highly regrettable” adding: “Had the alarm been raised straight away, as it ought to have been, what in fact occurred could have been avoided.”
The judge sentenced Ross to a hospital order and, after hearing evidence from consultant psychiatrists, said he was satisfied he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
Ross’s order includes a restriction which means he will only be released if and when the authorities, in agreement with specialist psychiatrists, agree it is safe.
Judge Sloan said: “There should be no question of you being at large unless and until the relevant authorities are completely satisfied that you no longer present any danger to the public.”
He said Ross’s killing of Melissa – who showed “devotion” as a mother to the couple’s two children – and a great talent at her work, had had a “devastating” effect on her family and friends and that the death of her brother was a tragedy.
He added: “No sentence I pass could ever serve to lessen or ease their pain.”
The court had previously heard Ross’s “possessive and controlling” behaviour had got worse in the weeks leading up to the tragedy.
Prosecutor Nick Dry told the court: “Added to the victim impact statement is the tragic death of Melissa Liddle’s brother Liam.
“It was he who discovered his sister’s body and, sad it is to report, he killed himself in November, three weeks after his 21st birthday.
“He did leave a note, which indicated he wished to be with his sister, he couldn’t cope with her loss.
“Also recovered was a sketch drawing, depicting the scene at the house when he found her body.”
The court heard Melissa, who had a baby boy just months old and a son aged five, had told her mum the night before her death how excited she was over Mother’s Day.
Ross, who had become convinced she had started an affair, told his mother around the time of the killing he had “an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other”.
The court heard his mental state had “deteriorated significantly” two days before Melissa’s death, with him telling his family that time seemed to be “moving slow”, that he was hearing voices and wanting to stay with his father so he was safe.
The former gardener and window cleaner had attended a walk-in health centre in South Tyneside the day before the killing due to his state.
He was advised to attend hospital if his condition did not improve.
The court heard the couple had planned to spend the night of March 14 apart and the children were with grandparents.
Mr Dry told the court; “However, Melissa sent a text message asking the defendant to come home, she didn’t want to stay in the house on her own.”
The court heard in the early hours of Sunday March 15, Ross called his mother to tell her he was hearing voices and had “an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other”.
He called his mother again later that morning to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and say: “don’t forget I love you”.
The court heard Ross then drove to Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, York, Leeds and Harrogate, while Melissa’s family started to grow concerned about why she had not been in touch and her brother and stepfather went to her home and made the heartbreaking find.
Toby Hedworth QC, defending, said experts have diagnosed Ross as having had paranoid schizophrenia since his teens.
He said Ross “bitterly regrets” the enormous harm he has done.
He added: “This is a man who was unwell and seriously unwell.
“If there was anything at all he could do to put the clock back, he would do that.”